1530s, "cat-like quadruped of northern Africa," from Middle French civette (15c.), ultimately (with Italian zibetto, Medieval Latin zibethum, Medieval Greek zapetion) via lost intermediate forms from Arabic zabad "civet," which is said to be related to zabad "foam, froth," zubd "cream," but perhaps this is folk-etymology of an African name. As "secretion of the anal glands of a civet-cat," one popular in perfumes, from 1550s. Hence, as a verb, "to scent with perfume" (c. 1600). Related: Civited.